(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm the President’s nominee to head the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, former-Ambassador Jim Nicholson.

Senator Murray met with Nicholson in her Washington, DC office last week to discuss the needs of veterans in Washington state.

Murray used the meeting as an opportunity to press for a fair and open process in considering the future of the Walla Walla VA Hospital. Murray also urged the VA to move forward with efforts for healthcare facilities in underserved areas like North Central Washington and Whatcom County.

“It is important that the head of the VA understands the specific needs of Washington state veterans,” Murray said. “From Walla Walla to Bellingham and from Vancouver to Wenatchee, our veterans are facing health care challenges that need to be addressed by this Administration. This is exactly what I told Secretary Nicholson.”

Murray has been working to protect the Walla Walla facility since it first appeared on the Administration’s Capital Asset Realignment for Enhanced Services (CARES) closure list last year. Following a field hearing and hard work by Senator Murray, a future use study was mandated in lieu of closure.

Murray also impressed upon Nicholson the need for this to be a locally driven process that will ensure that local veterans are cared for while meeting the VA’s needs for the facility.

“I look forward to working with Secretary Nicholson, but I impressed upon him that decisions effecting the Walla Walla VA must be based on local and community needs, not budgetary pressure and bureaucracy,” Murray said.

“I also hope the VA will work promptly to open clinics to serve veterans in north central Washington and in Whatcom County. With backlogs across the board and an impending influx of new veterans to our state, it is critical that we fulfill our commitment to provide care to veterans in these underserved communities as quickly as possible.”

In November 2003, Senator Murray authored legislation that requires the VA to provide local veterans in Chelan, Douglas, Ferry, Grant, Kittitas and Okanogan counties with well-trained medical staff for basic health, diagnostic and referral services.

Murray has also worked to establish a much-needed health care clinic in Whatcom County.

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